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Pakistan Negotiating With Taliban, Not "Traditional Local Clerics"

9:15 AM, Mar 4, 2009 • By BILL ROGGIO
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In the Wall Street Journal, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari attempts to convince the West that his nation's "fight against terrorism is relentless" and negotiations with the Swat Taliban are not actually occurring, but instead are taking place with "traditional local clerics."

In the highly volatile Swat Valley, our strategy has been to enter into talks with traditional local clerics to help restore peace to the area, and return the writ of the state.

We have not and will not negotiate with extremist Taliban and terrorists. The clerics with whom we have engaged are not Taliban. Indeed, in our dialogue we'd made it clear that it is their responsibility to rein in and neutralize Taliban and other insurgents. If they do so and lay down their arms, this initiative will have succeeded for the people of Swat Valley. If not, our security forces will act accordingly. Unfortunately, this process of weaning reconcilable elements of an insurgency away from the irreconcilables has been mischaracterized in the West.

Actually,President Zardari is mischaracterizing what he calls "traditional local clerics." The cleric he is referring to, Sufi Mohammed, is a radical Taliban supporter. Here is a brief backgrounder on Sufi:

Sufi Mohammed is the spiritual leader of the outlawed Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law. He claimed to have eschewed violence after being released from prison in November 2007 as a condition of a similar failed peace agreement in Swat. Sufi led more than 10,000 Pakistanis into Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001. Mullah Fazlullah, the radical anti-government cleric behind the insurgency and terror attacks in Swat, is his son-in-law.

Sufi and the Swat Taliban maintained very close links to the radical administration of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, the pro-Taliban mosque in the heart of Islamabad whose followers enforced sharia and kidnapped policemen just one mile from the seat of government. The Pakistani military stormed the Lal Masjid in July 2007 after a several-month standoff. More than a hundred followers and more than a dozen soldiers were killed in the battle.

In recent interviews, Sufi has declared his hatred for democracy and the West, and described Mullah Omar's regime in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 as "ideal."

"From the very beginning, I have viewed democracy as a system imposed on us by the infidels. Islam does not allow democracy or elections," Sufi told Deutsche Presse-Agentur just days before the Malakand Accord was signed. "I believe the Taliban government formed a complete Islamic state, which was an ideal example for other Muslim countries."

Just yesterday, the Taliban murdered two soldiers in Swat, and Sufi's reaction was the government was in violation of the ceasefire. The Daily Times reports:

[Sufi] said he was satisfied with the way Mullah Fazlullah, Sufi's son-in-law, was leading the Swat Taliban. "The Taliban are doing nothing wrong ... the government is responsible for violations."

President Zardari's entire premise for negotiations falls apart when you look at who the government is actually negotiating with. And the United States is supposed to be comforted in knowing Pakistan has ceded territory to a man who praises the Taliban and sent thousands of fighters to kill our troops in Afghanistan.